Volume 91, Issue 78

Wednesday, February 18, 1998

aspartame pop


A Quaker mounts 'Stang attack

Geoff Robins/Gazette
WHEN TWO TITANS COLLIDE. Two of the province's premier big men, Western's Nat Graham and Windsor's Geoff Stead, give true meaning to crashing the boards.

By Alex Chiang
Gazette Staff

Nat Graham has played on the same team as two NBA players, in front of crowds of 20,000 people, yet he insists that he doesn't view the Western basketball program as second-rate.

The six-foot-six, 220-pound Graham arrived on the Mustang basketball scene this season after spending two years playing in the Ivy League Conference with the University of Pennsylvania Quakers.

"I was the eighth man on a team that basically played seven deep, so sometimes I got a lot of playing time and sometimes I got none at all," Graham said. "I thought I didn't play as much as I should have or ought to have."

Yet earning playing time was understandably difficult on a Penn team that boasted two future NBA players – Matt Maloney of the Houston Rockets and Jerome Allen of the Denver Nuggets.

After finishing a degree in sociology, Graham contemplated playing overseas or at an American Division II team as a graduate student. Graham would, however, cross paths with Western basketball coach Craig Boydell, who would help convince the Miami-native to play north of the border.

"I knew nothing about Canadian basketball or Canada in general," Graham admitted, "but I decided that it was my best option to play here for the next two years."

Graham pointed the differences he has noticed playing the Canadian university level, when he looks back at his American college days.

"It is a little more cut-throat in the NCAA, probably because so many coaches know their jobs are at stake if they don't win all the time," he said. "[The players] were also expected to put a lot more time into it."

Graham also had the unique opportunity to play in front of capacity crowds at the Spectrum in Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Sports Arena, among others.

Surprisingly, however, Graham refused to admit that he viewed Western's basketball program and the CIAU in general, as a second-class product.

"I think there's a lot of Division I teams we can beat," Graham said. "We can definitely beat most of the Ivy League teams, except for maybe Princeton."

This season, Graham has been a force for the Mustangs at both ends of the court. Ten games into the regular season, Graham is second in team scoring (14.8 points per game average) and rebounds (6.7 per game) and leads the Mustangs in assists, averaging 3.9 per game.

"He's an integrator, because he integrates a part of the offence and the defence," Boydell said. "He passes well and catches well and that helps bring the offence together. Plus, he's a sound defensive player, who's great on the help defence and can come out to defend on the perimeter.

"He's an essential ingredient on any good team."

Graham and the rest of the Mustang basketball squad will take on the Waterloo Warriors tonight at 8 p.m. in Waterloo.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998